The implementation of the project to divert part of the flow of Siberian Rivers could help solving the Aral Sea restoration problem, Peter Zavyalov, Deputy Director of the Institute of Oceanology, Corresponding Member of the RAS said.
According to the expert, the Central Asian countries are facing a serious problem of water shortage, which is used not only for irrigation of crops, but also for domestic needs. Zavyalov thinks that the problem is compounded by the occurrence of salt and dust storms.
– In recent months there have even been events when salt and dust storms reached large cities, for example, Nukus, and this created great inconvenience and threat to the health of the population, Peter Zavyalov said.
According to the oceanologist, the project of diverting the flow of Siberian Rivers to Central Asia to solve the problem of the Aral Sea deserves consideration.
– This is not about diverting all or even one of the Siberian Rivers, but about rechanneling 7% of the flow of the Irtysh River. This amount is small and can hardly create a threat to the ecology of Russia. And for Central Asia, such an amount of water would be a significant contribution to solving the problem of the Aral Sea, Peter Zavyalov told.
He specified that this project can be carried out on a basis of mutual benefits, in particular economic.
– Of course, such a project requires serious examination before starting something. This is serious engineering work, which will require hundreds of millions, maybe billions of dollars. But it may well pay off. This is an issue to be agreed by politicians, the expert said.
The project of rechanneling the flow of Siberian Rivers to Central Asia was developed in the Soviet time. During Perestroika, this project, however, like all projects of the Soviet importance, was subjected to strong criticism as harmful to the environment. Prominent Russian politician Yuri Luzhkov was one of the first to remember about this project in the new period.
However, he did not call it the rechanneling of rivers, but, like a real business executive, he talked about the export of water. His logic was simple. He considered water the same natural resource as oil, gas, metals, etc. Therefore, if someone has plenty of water, then why not sell it where it is critically insufficient. At the same time, Luzhkov was sure that sooner or later Russia and the Central Asian countries would carry out this project, since its economic feasibility is obvious.
There is so much water in Russia that floods cause significant damage to the country’s economy every year. In contrast, water scarcity is holding back development of agriculture and other sectors of the economy in Central Asia.
As for the Aral Sea, it is generally known that the sea is drying up (it would not be desirable to say it’s disappeared) because people overused the water of the rivers flowing into the sea for their needs, mainly irrigation. And there is simply no other way to restore or save the Aral Sea than to return this water. Therefore, the project of rechanneling part of the flow of Siberian Rivers to Central Asia is quite competitive.
Another thing is that everything needs to be carefully calculated and agreed. And the huge scale of the project should not scare. Once, people dug the Karakum Canal.